Nielsen: 1.5M U.S. households cut the cord in 2011

One thing seems certain: the number of U.S. homes subscribing to a cable, satellite or telephone company for a multichannel TV bundle isn’t growing as fast as it used to.

In fact, belying several earlier research studies, which said growth of U.S. multi-channel services has slowed significantly but not stopped, Nielsen’s latest “Cross-Platform Report” says the number of U.S. homes paying a multichannel provider for TV services last year actually declined by 1.5 million, or about 1.5 percent.

Subscription gains made by telco providers AT&T (s ATT) and Verizon (s VZ) (about 1.1 million) and satellite service companies DirecTV (s DTV) and Dish (s DISH) (added 280,000 subscribers) could not offset the over 2.9 million subscriptions lost by cable providers, Nielsen reports (see chart).

Other nuggets from Nielsen’s quarterly “Cross-Platform” report:

— After years of growth, the average amount of time per month the typical viewer spent watching traditional TV in the fourth quarter declined by about 46 minutes, or one half of one percent. Nielsen says most of that shift is caused by DVR usage, which was up 12.3 percent year over year, but viewing of internet video (up 4.2 per) is also beginning to factor in.

— Amount of time spent on game consoles in the U.S. was up 30 percent year over year in the fourth quarter. These consoles can now be found in 45 percent of American homes, Nielsen says.

— Among kids 2-11, time-shifted viewing grew about 20 percent over the fourth quarter of 2010, with young audiences embracing DVR usage and on-demand viewing on game consoles.